'The joy of music will never run out'

Breaking Barriers

'The joy of music will never run out'

Any classical music lover would have heard of maestro Ajay Pohankar, a Hindustani classical vocalist and a musicologist of the Kirana gharana. Among the younger lot, his son Abhijit’s name would ring a bell, owing to his 2002 hit Piya Bawari. The father-son duo spoke to Metrolife on their recent visit to the City. 

“As everybody in the music fraternity knows, I started my profession at the age of nine as a child prodigy. This is my passion and profession and my total involvement is in it.

Luckily for me, music was in my blood. My mother Sushilabai hails from the Kirana gharana. My father was an advocate but even he learned music,” reminisces Ajay.

Continuing his walk down memory lane, he recalls, “I gave my first concert in 1957 in Nagpur. That was when I was 10. At the age of 12, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi called me for the Sawai Gandharva festival in Pune. After that, late Ustad Amir Khan sahab invited me to perform in Calcutta along with Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Ustad Nazaquat Ali Salamuddin, Hafiz Ali Khan sahab and Pandit Chatur Lal ji. Since then, I’ve been performing at so many concerts that I can’t keep count anymore.”

Instead of following suit, Abhijit chose a modern approach to make classical music accessible to the common man — fusion. “Music was always my first love. I grew up around legends like my father, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Jasraj. But I feel that classical music isn’t reaching people the way it should because of the rigidity to it. For example, certain ragas can only be sung in the morning or evening. I understand the purity aspect. But what about the common audiences?” questions Abhijit. 

Because of this viewpoint, he faced initial opposition from his family. “I was a rebel. I was the first one who tried fusion and took the risk despite the genre not being established.

 Nobody allowed me initially. But I’ve always been stubborn about my music. When the album came out, people finally accepted it,” he recalls. Even in his last two albums — Thumri Funk with his father and Ghazal Lounge, where classical ghazals are sung by Roop Kumar Rathod — it’s clear the passion to fuse hasn’t run dry.

In fact, the duo has been exploring music together of late. “For me, the joy of music will never run out. I’m enjoying the classical genre as well as thumris, which is my favourite genre. With Abhijit, I’m even doing a bit of fusion and new-age music. I’m an unbiased artiste. I love different genres,” shares Ajay, adding, “I’m like a gardener — if a gardener enjoys only one flower, he can’t be called that.” 

The maestro confesses that he isn’t upset by Abhijit’s deviation from the convention. “There’s no confusion in my mind or Abhijit’s about fusion — we want to use it to take the youth closer to classical music. I’m very happy because through him, classical music now has a wider span. I can’t be orthodox about his music because my parents themselves were very liberal,” he concludes.

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